One Man's Tournament Predictions

The Pittsburgh Panthers for the third year in a row head into the Big East Conference tournament with ownership of the regular season title. However, this year the Panthers don't have to share that honor with anyone else.<br><br> By virtue of Connecticut's loss to the surging Syracuse Orangemen, the Panthers won the title outright. But at this point in the game, the regular season is a moot point until Sunday at 6pm.

Jamie Dixon's crew finished the season with the best Panther record over the three-year run at 27 – 3. What's a big difference is that this season not only is the Big East Championship riding on the line, but also a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and all the glitz and honor that goes to those four teams.

As with last season, the Panthers must win their tournament and hope that at least Mississippi State and probably Oklahoma State fail to win their tournament. The Panthers have an incredible RPI at #5, but the Bulldogs top that at #4. OSU also has a tide of media support behind them.

The sad truth is that from this moment back to last season, the Panthers have done everything asked of them and have yet to be rewarded with a #1 seed. In fact the committee slapped them in the face and placed them as the lowest ranked #2 seed even when they were only one of two teams in the top 8 that won their conference tournament.

This year may be no different, as the Panthers once again need help to get a #1 seed. But first they must successfully traverse that pesky four-day tournament in New York City.

Today the Panthers got some good news, while the Huskies of Connecticut may be hearing their bell toll. Emeka Okefer will have an MRI on Tuesday and may miss the Big East Tournament. And if it goes very bad for him, the Huskies may be without their biggest weapon and moral leader heading into the field of 65. That will be the focus on Ben Gordon and Rasheed Anderson, two guys that may need to throw all caution to the wind and take a page out of Notre Dame's book and throw up treys at an alarming rate.

Speaking of those wacky Irish, their namesake celebrates St. Patrick's Day and Irish will need all their luck to win the tournament since no team that has failed to garner a bye has ever won the Big East tournament.

The Orangemen took care of securing their bye on Sunday and look to face Pittsburgh in a rubber match on Friday (if all goes right). However, the Orangeman will not see the same Pittsburgh team that failed to shoot from the outside and failed to break the 2 – 3 zone. The Pittsburgh team they will see is the one that figured out the zone last Tuesday in Providence.

Speaking of those media darling Friars, where has all the hype gone? Two home losses when the Friars needed them most and two quiet evenings from Ryan Gomes sure silenced the masses.

What can't be silenced is the small run that Boston College has made in Big East play. The Eagles are a dangerous team, one that could give both Syracuse and Pitt fits if they should meet them.

The only other team with a shot at winning this thing are the Seton Hall Pirates. And, you know what? They won't. Not, when they have the hardest road to travel. First Villanova, then Providence, then Connecticut (in all probability), then a possible meeting with Pittsburgh? Maybe next year, Pirate fans…and I'm not talking the Bucco faithful (but I could).

So, who's going to win this whole thing? Pitt? Connecticut? Syracuse? Providence? Last season I picked Syracuse. I was one tournament to0 early. This year, I'm picking Pittsburgh, and I hope that in retrospect I'll be one tournament too early again.

       2004 BIG EAST MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP 

 FIRST ROUND
 WED.  MARCH 10

 QUARTER FINALS
 THURS.  MARCH 11

 SEMIFINALS
 FRI.  MARCH 12

 CHAMPIONSHIP
 SAT.  MARCH 13

(8) VIRGINIA TECH
ESPN Noon
(9) RUTGERS

     
 

8/9 WINNER
ESPN2 Noon
(1) PITTSBURGH

   

(5) BOSTON COLLEGE
ESPN 2:00pm
(12) GEORGETOWN

 

 
ESPN 7:00pm
 

 
 

5/12 WINNER
ESPN2 2:00pm
(4) SYRACUSE

   
     

 
ESPN 8:00pm
 

(7) NOTRE DAME
ESPN 7:00pm
(10) WEST VIRGINIA

     

 

7/10 WINNER
ESPN2 7:00pm
(2) CONNECTICUT

   

(6) SETON HALL
ESPN 9:00pm
(11) VILLANOVA

 


ESPN 9:00pm
 

 

 

6/11 WINNER
ESPN 9:00pm
(3) PROVIDENCE

   

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